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Women's History Month: Public Affairs Officer

Navy leaders and pioneers

"From the Revolutionary War to current conflicts, women have played a crucial role in the security of our nation and the success of the U.S. Navy. Join us as we celebrate Women's History Month by profiling women leaders and pioneers across the Navy."

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Captain Thurraya S. Kent currently serves as public affairs officer to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition).

Q: How did you decide to join the Navy?

A: When I began Spelman College, my original goal was to join the State Department and serve abroad. During my sophomore year, I was introduced to the Navy by friends in the NROTC unit at nearby Morehouse College. Through the Baccalaureate Degree Completion Program, the Navy enabled me to pay for school and to achieve my goal of service while traveling and living overseas. My Navy journey has taken to me to places I never imagined as a child. Shortly after OCS, I reported for duty on my first of three islands- Iceland.

Q: Who have your role models or mentors been that have influenced you or helped to guide you throughout your Navy career?

A: My first role model and mentor was and remains my mom. She is a great listener and has a unique way of helping people find solutions from within themselves. Part of mentorship is taking enough interest in a person's professional development to provide guidance that can be used beyond the task at hand. From my first supervisor to my current bosses, I've been fortunate because each has invested the time to help me develop skills that can be applied beyond the current assignment. Since I entered the Navy, I've been blessed to have mentors from across different career fields and paygrades- some for a year or two and others for more than a decade. I've appreciated my mentors' willingness to listen to my personal and professional goals and then provide counsel based on those goals, and not their own. I keep two of my mentors on speed dial- retired RADM Arthur Johnson and retired CAPT Anthony Cooper. Over the years, they've helped me prioritize, balance and keep things on track.

Q: Can you share a story about someone, perhaps someone in your family or otherwise, who has influenced you or challenged you to become more than perhaps even you ever thought you might.

A: My husband and I have two sons, one with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Supporting and celebrating each of my children's individual needs has strengthened my faith in God and provided valuable lessons on working as a team and looking beyond the surface when dealing with people or situations. Navigating the Navy, family and ASD is continually teaching me how to balance multiple facets of life by learning to work through things that are beyond my control and to proactively embrace those things I can control. But I think the main lesson my sons and my husband want me to learn is to take more time for fun.

Q: Please tell us which past assignments are the most memorable to you and why?

A: It is hard to pick just one because there was something rewarding about each of my assignments. But if choosing just one, it has to be command. Being in command of Navy Public Affairs Support Element (NPASE) was an amazing privilege. I got to see first hand the talent of our public affairs and visual information community- ashore and afloat. The NPASE team was focused on constant improvement, always coming up with ways to improve training or processes- finding ways to remove barriers so that Sailors could give their best. We had a great mission, we worked hard and above all else, we worked together. I witnessed the resilience of our Sailors and their families when given 24-48 hours to deploy in support of relief efforts in Haiti and for Operation Tomodachi. And I got to be there when they achieved their goals, like earning warfare pins or getting promoted. It's hard to beat the energy that comes from working with Sailors every day.

Q: What does being a leader in the Navy mean to you?

A: For me, being a leader in the Navy means providing clear direction and an example to follow. It starts with caring about the mission and the people you lead. At the end of the day, it comes down to three questions: Have we moved the command forward? Have I encouraged someone to strive for his/her personal best? Would my family be proud of what I did today?